Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 2
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
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BLOCK PARTY: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Tara Thomas, right, blocks a shot in a game earlier this season. Thomas showed her all-around game last Saturday, scoring 15 points and coming up with some key rebounds and assists as PHS topped Stuart Country Day 51-44 to improve to 4-3. The Little Tigers will look to keep on the winning track when they host Hightstown on January 15 and play at Spotswood on January 16.

Sparked by Thomas’ Emergence as a Star, PHS Girls’ Hoops Gets on Winning Track

Bill Alden

Tara Thomas was a member of the supporting cast last winter for the Princeton High girls’ basketball team.

Splitting her time between the JV and varsity teams, Thomas worked hard to develop her game.

“Last year, I would play one quarter of JV and then get in some of the varsity games,” recalled Thomas.

“The JV games would help me with my ball handling, passing, and shooting. When I would get into varsity games, I would be warmed up.”

After honing her skills this summer by playing in a Trenton league and then improving her conditioning this fall by competing for the Mercer Junior Rowing Club, Thomas has taken a leading role for the Little Tigers this winter.

Last Saturday against visiting Stuart Country Day, Thomas demonstrated how formidable she has become, scoring 15 points and collecting some key rebounds and assists as PHS held off a Tartan rally to win 51-44.

“I am a lot more comfortable playing on the varsity,” said Thomas after the win which improved PHS to 4-3 on the season. “Playing in the Trenton league was probably the best thing that could have happened for me. Crew has also gotten me a lot stronger; I was pretty much conditioned coming into basketball season.”

Thomas’ increased confidence on the court was reflected by how she calmly drained some key fourth quarter free throws to help hold off Stuart.

“I was on the list for the bricklayers at the Trenton league for kids who can’t really shoot free throws,” said the affable Thomas with a smile.

“I have been practicing a lot. During water breaks I will take free throws and after practice I will stay and take free throws. It’s definitely been paying off.”

A late surge last winter which saw PHS win six of its last 10 games after a 1-11 start is paying dividends this winter.

“It is definitely rolling over from the end of last season to this season,” asserted Thomas.

“Also, Molly [Barber], Julia [Maltby], Talya [Nakash], Julie [Barry], and I have been playing together since 5th grade so we know how each other play.”

That togetherness came through Saturday as PHS rebounded from a tough 42-41 loss to Hopewell Valley a night earlier.

“Last night was very upsetting because we played until the buzzer and the mistakes we made earlier in the game hurt us,” said Thomas, reflecting on the loss to HoVal.

“We all came into today saying we are going to take out all the anger and frustration from last night and put it into this game.”

PHS head coach Steffanie Shoop was a bit frustrated with PHS’s play on Saturday against Stuart as it squandered a 27-17 halftime lead, getting outscored 18-8 in the third quarter to see the game knotted at 35-35 heading into the final eight minutes of regulation.

“We really lost it in the third quarter; I think we started to not take care of the ball as much and our box outs really hurt us,” said Shoop, who got 22 points from Barber in the win with Maltby adding eight.

“In the fourth quarter, I think we played with more poise and control. You can’t really win a game or lose a game within a quarter; you have to play four solid quarters of basketball.”

Shoop certainly likes the solid play she is getting from Thomas. “Tara has come a very long way; she plays hard consistently,” said Shoop.

“She is playing with more confidence which is making a big difference. She is really in shape; she has great conditioning. She is a great team player. She’ll take her shots when she is open and she will pass when she is not. She is fine with ballhandling; she is fine setting up in the post.”

In Shoop’s view, it was great to see PHS rebound from the tough defeat at HoVal.

“It is important to come back every time you lose,” said Shoop, whose team hosts Hightstown on January 15 before playing at Spotswood on January 16. “Every game is a new game; you have got to approach it like that. Every team is a formidable adversary so we need to make sure that we continue to take every team seriously. We need to make sure that we address all of our weaknesses and all of our strengths.”

Thomas, for her part, believes that some serious effort is paying off for PHS. “I think our team is so much more united; everyone really wants this and everyone is working for the same thing,” added Thomas.

“Everyone is working really hard; this is a big deal for PHS girls’ basketball. I think kids at our school are starting to take us seriously.”

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